January 20, 2015

100 Days of Meditation: 3 Week Update

Just before the New Year hit, I set an intention for 100 days of meditation. For something so spontaneous, I can't believe how well it stuck. I think that shows that I don't always respond best to things that are meticulously planned and prepared for. I've always given myself space instead of rushing into changes because I know that I always make the move, without procrastination, when I'm ready. Giving myself time, and not making myself feel guilty or like a failure, has always served me well with my life choices.

I haven't once felt like I was forcing myself to sit down and do this challenge. My desire to meditate daily evokes a feeling inside that is much akin to hunger. At some point in the early afternoon, this desire emerges that leads me to my meditation spot (just like my hunger pangs lead me to the kitchen).

Each day, my intuition guides me in choosing the music and essential oils that will help me to feel at home in my practice. I've enjoyed trying different thing: mantras, breath work, visualizations, various body positions, sounds/silence (I've confidently settled in with having music since I believe so strongly in its healing power). I've been playing around with essential oils (reviews coming!) and reading about color therapy. I'm intrigued by flower essences. I'm falling in love with the tones of Tibetan singing bowls, and I'm realizing that my deep, life-long connection to water extends to meditation, as it is one of my favorite nature sounds to listen to in the process of quieting my mind.

I began week 3 of my meditation last Friday, and I've seen some amazing changes in my life. A few of them are:

  • Mood lift and a boost in overall feelings of well-being
  • Stress reduction and ability to handle much more without reaching the point of frustration
  • More empathy for others and a deeper sense of connection to them
  • Growing awareness of my preferred methods of escape for uncomfortable emotions that arise
  • Comfort in stillness and less of a need to be constantly doing something

That isn't even all of the benefits I've seen which shows how powerful meditation can be in such a short period of time. It's awesome to think of what will happen as I continue these 100 days and beyond. But more than that, I'm thankful for how I can appreciate each moment for what it is now

January 12, 2015

Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips

Oh my. These kale chips are amazing.

I picked them up at a little health food store in the Pittsburgh suburbs. I was drawn in when my eye caught the words "mango" and "habanero". This flavor is unique to other kale chip offerings, and I love mangoes and heat. I really couldn't go wrong with this one.

In all honestly, I rarely buy kale chips since I own a dehydrator. It's much more cost-effective to make them at home, and it's way more fun coming up with flavors that you can't buy in the stores. Still, I do love to pick up a bag as a treat from time to time!

Rhythm Superfoods is new to me, so that (aside from the flavor of the kale chips) was one of the main reasons I bought these. I love to try new things, for my own enjoyment and to spread the word on fantastic vegan foods.

My favorite thing about them? The flavor. At first, you get the smooth, fruity taste of the mango, and then when you think you're in the clear from any spiciness, it hits you. Even better is that the mango is just sweet enough to straddle the sweet/savory line, and the spice is nice and hot, but won't leave you feeling like your tongue is falling out.

When I looked at the ingredients and saw sunflower seeds and tahini instead of cashews, I did a little dance. Cashews don't always digest so well for me (and many other people, too). They can sometimes make my stomach feel heavy and unpleasant, and can even flare up my mold sensitivities. In fact, when I was first recovering from my mold-induced illnesses, I never ate cashews. Since that phase of recovery lasted a long time, I discovered that sunflower seeds can be substituted in many of the recipes calling for cashews. You might need to tinker with the sweetener levels, but it works beautifully. I still like to keep my cashew intake low, so I really love that they use sunflower seeds and tahini in this.

Another thing I loved about these kale chips is the thin coating of dressing on them. It seems that most kale chip brands have figured out that if you coat the leaves of kale thickly with the flavoring, the chips will stay crunchier. I've tasted some kale chips that had very light dressing on them, and I have to say, I was not pleased at all with the limp, chewy leaves. These, however, are a nice middle ground. They're not the crunchiest out there, but they're not stale at all either. They're quite good! They've managed to keep a light coating without sacrificing the crunch factor.

For those of you who haven't had kale chips, you may think there's a big difference in the heavily-coated ones and these. Not really. Not as far as taste, that is. The reason it impressed me was because it lowers the overall fat content of this product. You can eat the whole bag and still consume less fat than a 2 Tbsp serving of nut butter or a 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds. In other words, I get a healthier amount of fat for a snack and don't feel sluggish from it!

I can't think of any negatives about this product (other than the price if you're on a budget, but that's every kale chip out there!). If you want to treat yourself, or are looking for a fun snack to munch on with your loved ones, I'd highly recommend these kale chips.

January 09, 2015

December's Beauty Box from Petit Vour + Vegan Beauty Review

This month's Petit Vour beauty box, co-curated with Sunny from Vegan Beauty Review, was one of my favorites, and that's saying a lot. As it is, I already rush to the door upon delivery and rip open the beautiful pink box every month, gushing about it's contents. This one came right before Christmas, so it felt more season appropriate to be doing this, but still I have no shame about my beauty product-induced exhilaration.

Let's dig in, shall we?

  • Trust Fund Beauty nail polish in Just Talk to My Lawyer. This polish is gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. I'd been planning on painting my nails with Pacifica's Red, Red Wine polish for the holidays, but this one was too amazing to not use. I love how it looks dark brownish with some tones of red until it hits the light and transforms into a beautiful burgundy sparkle. Other bonuses: long wear without chipping, great application and pigmentation, and 5-free.
  •  Everyday Minerals blush in All Smiles. I'm still new to non-toxic beauty, and it's imperative that I have extra clean formulas for my health. I didn't own any blush yet, but had been wanting to try some brands out. When my fatigue flares up, having some color on my cheeks makes me feel a little bit brighter and healthier. I've been using beets and lip tints, but now I have this peachy mineral blush, too. What I love most about it is that it looks so natural and compliments my skin tone really well. Everyone must be as crazy about it as I am because it's been sold out on Petit Vour for a while. I didn't see it listed with the matte blushes on the Everyday Minerals website, but it is included in their Beauty and the Bronzer kit.
  • Meow Meow Tweet lavender deodorant cream. I've heard so much about this brand, so I was happy to get to try them out. This, like the Schmidt's one I got in an earlier box, is one of those deodorants that you need to apply with your fingers. It's pretty easy to scoop out (hence being called "cream"), and I use the back of my nail so I don't get any product stuck under my nail. This is a nice scent, if, like me, you don't like smelling like a walking lavender bush. It's a pleasant floral scent without being too intense. They have 2 other scents as well: tea tree and baking-soda free with grapefruit. It did it's job, but didn't last that long, especially with sweat. I'll definitely keep it for a back-up/in my travel bag. It's good in a pinch.
  • Blissoma's Smooth A+ perfecting serum. This formula is for oily, acne-prone skin, which I don't have. However, it can also be used throughout the day as a spot treatment, which I've done a few times. Also, for dry problem skin, it can be used before moisturizing. I haven't used it enough to give any useful feedback, but I am really impressed by the formulation and thorough research in creating their products. If you have problem skin, I encourage you to read the product description on their site. They explain really well why they used the ingredients that they did. I'm keeping this company in my radar in hopes to try some of their other products in the future! 

January 05, 2015

Softening into 2015

...and goodbye forever, 2014!

It doesn't feel right to say that 2014 was a crappy year, even though I really want to. I did wonderful things; I got to see my best friend twice in two months (take that, distance and crazy different schedules!), saw Andrew McMahon in concert again,

taught some fun cooking classes, took many easy hikes in the woods with J and Tucker,

rescued a pigeon, a cat, and then a dog that was about to be run over on a middle-of-nowhere highway road,

Tucker with Asheron, who now lives with her forever family and is renamed Tovah

But, it was all those in-betweens that really started to wear me out, which culminated with a bad sinus cold, a bout of the flu, and a pair of very tired adrenals once the holidays were over. I'm not used to catching colds (and flus). Even when I'm fatigued to the max, I still manage to fight it off. I can thank my diet for much of my luck health-wise, but we can't forget that diet isn't a cure-all. A healthy body depends on much more than just what we eat. I've talked about this many times on here, but I feel that I need to reiterate.

My health was suffering, so I made a plan. I'm becoming a pro at making these action plans. I took note of the things that I'd like to change and also of the things I couldn't change and would have to manage. I noticed how my body reacted to what I did/said/thought/felt, and followed my intuition.

There is something to the idea that when you open yourself up to answers, you will find what you need. I've been following Susannah Conway's blog for years now, but had never participated in her "Find Your Word" email class. This year, I decided to participate. Feeling confident that I knew which words would make it to the final round, I was completely blind-sided by another choice, one that I couldn't imagine choosing for myself initially: SOFTEN.

There was no denying how strongly I was drawn to the word. I did some journaling exercises and felt even more assured that this was to be my word of 2015. I settled in to the word and noticed that in my everyday life, I found myself whispering, "soften," in my head to help me in various situations.

To me, soften has to do with learning to be flexible with life's happenings, being fluid like water (going with the flow), learning to harness power from unlikely places. I am finding endless other applications for this word in my life. I feel at home in this word, and will carry it with me through the year, or until I no longer find it useful.

In a similar vein, I randomly decided to embark on a "100 days of meditation" challenge for myself. Around Christmastime, I was growing more anxious and overwhelmed with unexpected responsibilities and my inability to do it all because of my dip down in health. One day, I retreated to a quiet, dark room and anointed myself with essential oils (Christmas gift!). I sat down, crossed my legs, and started to meditate. A weird thing happened when I finished. Without any forethought, I posted a picture on my Instagram and hashtagged it #100daysofmeditation #day1.

#100daysofmeditation #day1

Let me interject here by giving you the brief history meditation and me. I've succeeded in incorporating every healing modality that I felt was necessary for my healing except for meditation. I've tried many times, including setting an intention here, and failed. It never stuck. Luckily, I didn't let that feeling of failure stop me from trying again (and again and again.)

I don't know what will happen this time, but I feel good about this. When my mind wanders, I gently bring myself back to center. When I have company, I happily carve out time for my meditation. I get anxious and want to move, and instead take a deep breath and restart my visualizations. Despite these discomforts, I continue to move ahead. It feels right to me, necessary, nourishing. I like having meditation in my life.

I can't help but attribute the success of my new habit to two things: necessity and my word, soften. Life was feeling so crazy, so out of control, so uncertain, that I could either let the overwhelm swallow me whole or do something to change my feelings. Necessity was where it began. Carrying the word "soften" deep in the recesses of my heart is what is keeping it in motion.

I'm feeling pretty thankful for the rough edges of 2014 because it appears to be leading me in a beautiful direction.